Torah Study Notes 1-9-16

January 9, 2016

Page 388

Exodus 3:18

We have now have had Moses’ second visit with P. It is written mostly by the Elohim (E)  author except for the section on boils which is written by the Priestly (P) author. It is interesting to consider what might be the agendas of the authors. P is characterized by an enormous attention to detail.

8:16 M threatens swarms of insects as instructed by God. This is an example of a  Hapax legomenon in that it appears only once in the text. See:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hapax_legomenon

LL There is a theological statement here about why humanity has to take action rather than God doing it for them. See the recent cartoon in the New Yorker where Moses says to God “Can’t you do this yourself?” What is the strategy here via God acting through human actors? RB The goal is to create a people who will worship one God.

8:21 Than Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron… and told them to sacrifice to their God in the land. And to plead with their God on behalf of P. SF: The people are not ready to leave in that they need to be cleansed – a process that continues as they wander in the desert. They were also concerned that the Egyptians worshiped some of the animals that they would be sacrificing and would consider their action an “abomination.” Here everything is black and white – we are either slaves in Egypt or we are free. The same was true upon entering the land of the Canaanites – they could not tolerate cohabiting with a people of another religion.

8:21 The Eternal did as Moses asked and removed the insects. But P would still not let the people go. Now the livestock of the Egyptians is threatened.  Yet P remained stubborn. Interesting that the Israelite’s had their own livestock. Were they really slaves? Or just lacking refrigerators?  They also left with gold. Taken from the neighbors? Was this more like being an indentured servant? Egyptian archaeologists and scholars insist that the Israelite’s were paid for their labors. See:  http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2010/01/12/egypt-new-find-shows-slaves-didnt-build-pyramids but see http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/1106/features/were-the-israelites-enslaved-in-egypt/

RB: Some religious schools teach the Torah as history when in fact it is a series of stories that teach lessons. LL Sometimes those lessons are obscure and difficult – hence this tradition of study.

9:8 Boils. This is believed to be the Priestly author. There is a human intermediary between the people and God and ceremony. Note the inconsistency of giving boils to animals that have all been killed in a previous plague. The redactor should have noticed this but didn’t do a good job in creating a consistent whole.  There is also a possibility of time compression. Aaron is in this parsha so that is another indication of a Priestly author.

9:13  All of the plagues will be sent. A very heavy hail. All not sheltered shall perish. This is a sequence designed to convince the Israelite’s to worship their God. Note that Moses speaks in the first person – as if God is speaking directly through him.

9:22 Moses held out his arm toward the sky and devastating hail came down. Except in the region of Goshen where there was no hail.

9:27 P says he will let the people go. But his heart stiffened again. Next a plague: locusts. See Essays on page 393. Why is it important to always leave the enemy with something to eat? A discussion for another day.

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